Spending time with both parents is not always in a childs best interest

We recently shared a story of how the court deems that the best interest of the child is not always consistent with what a parents best interest is, and how the Family Court must endeavour to give a child a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Here we will share a story of when the best interest of the child are best served by one parent being excluded from the child’s life.

A recent family court matter provided for final orders of no time being spent with one parent, here is the case summary.

At separation, Mum obtained an intervention order against Dad which included the child as a protected person. Over the years Mum had been subjected to physical and emotional domestic violence, even, at times, in the presence of the child. During the first year after separation, there were supervised visits between Dad and the chid.

Dad had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health issues. Dad wanted to increase his time with his child, and Mum was agreeable for him to do so, recognising the importance of her child having a relationship with his father, as long as he would submit to drug screen, complete an anger management course and undertake a psychological assessment.

Dad did not agree to the above conditions and mediation failed. Dad then initiated proceedings in the Family court. At the first return date in Court, amongst other things, Dad consented to a psychological assessment, to complete drug screens and hair follicle testing. No orders were made for him to see his child at that date. When the Court asked for parties to come back for an update and further directions, it did not go well. Dad had not completed his psychological testing, or submitted to any drug testing. When Dad was meant to attend to have a hair follicle testing, he shaved his head. Dad did also not show up for court.

The Judge then made final orders that

  1. The Mother have sole parental responsibility for the Child
  2. The Child live with the Mother

No Orders were made for the child to spend time with the Father.

This case illustrates how a Court must endeavour to balance the two primary considerations when determining what is in a child’s best interest, these are;

  1. The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
  2. The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm.

Courts are very cautious about excluding a parent from a child’s life, however this case illustrates, where there is a history of persistent violence, a break of time in the child seeing a parent, and when a party refuses to comply with Court orders, it will be appropriate for a Court to make such an order.

It was ultimately up to the Father as to whether he would have a place in his child’s life, and he chose to disregard the tasks the Court had ask him to complete, and his pathway back to spending time with his child.

Peter Fisher Lawyers regularly deals with difficult cases such as these. We are here to help if you have any inquiries about navigating the law and the Family court process. We specialise in helping you through any separation, divorce, children or property matter issues you may have. For more information, call our Family Law team on 08 8296 2690.